John G. Reeve in his hospital bed at Peconic Bay Medical Center this afternoon, awaiting surgery.

An attack by an aggressive deer landed a Riverhead man in the hospital with a broken hip last night.

At first, John G. Reeve didn’t know what was happening. He was opening the hatch of his vehicle and the deer “came out of nowhere and started butting me like a billy goat,” he said.

“I grabbed him by the antlers and I tried to twist his head to make pain for him so he’d take off, but it didn’t work,” Reeve recalled, lying in his hospital bed at Peconic Bay Medical Center today.

“He kept backing up and — bam. Back up and bam. He hit me four times. I was trying to get back into my car and the fourth time he hit me, I went down — hard,” Reeve said. “I knew right away it was broken.”

Reeve, 83, lay on the ground right next to his vehicle and the deer kept coming at him, ramming him with his antlers.

“Fortunately he was a young one and they weren’t that big,” Reeve said. Big or not, the buck’s antlers gored one of Reeve’s fingers when he put up his arms as he tried to protect himself.

“In my 83 years, I’ve never heard of anything like this,” said Reeve, a retired truck driver.

“This guy was nuts,” Reeve said.

Fortunately for Reeve, Coastal Pipeline Products workers were leaving their plant up the road.

Michael Koke of Southold, an owner of Coastal Pipeline on Twomey Avenue, said he saw Reeve’s car and saw a deer right next to it. That caught his attention. Then he saw Reeve lying on the ground.

Koke pulled into Reeve’s yard, jumped out of his truck and tried to scare the buck away. No dice.

“That deer was relentless,” Koke said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Soon Garrett Koke and a couple of other guys from Coastal, as well as another neighbor, Thomas Zapasek, joined Michael Koke in the effort to chase the deer away. One man had a pipe, another a crowbar.

“But he just kept coming back, chasing the men around the property,” Michael Koke said.

“He didn’t leave until the ambulance came with lights and sirens,” he said.

Reeve was in good spirits today as he waited to be brought to the operating room, where Dr. Peter Sultan would be performing a partial hip replacement.

“I guess you could say the deer won,” Reeve told trauma team docs who stopped in to examine him.

John G. Reeve awaits surgery at Peconic Bay Medical Center this afternoon with his children, Ed and Debbie. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Reeve’s daughter, Debbie Masterson of Calverton and his son and daughter-in-law, Ed and Brenda Reeve of Riverhead, were at his bedside.

Masterson, who lives on the corner of Manor Road and Twomey Avenue, next to her father’s land, said a young buck was on her backyard deck about an hour before her father was attacked.

“I grabbed a broom and tried to shoo him away, but he wouldn’t budge,” Masterson said. She was not home when the deer — presumably the same young buck — attacked her father.

Reeve, who has four great-grandchildren, said he was glad none of the neighbor’s children were around to encounter the angry buck.

Deer attacks on people are “exceedingly rare,” according to the N.Y. State Department of Environmental Conservation. But they are not entirely unheard of, either. Docile throughout most of the year, bucks turn aggressive during breeding season — also known as “rut” — which for white-tailed deer in New York runs from October to January. DEC does not have any statistics on deer attacks on humans, an agency spokesperson said.

During this time of year, the buck’s testosterone surges and the animal fights with other bucks over territory — and female deer.

Deer chasing other deer during the rutting season leads to an increase in car/deer crashes.

Also, deer who have been fed by humans can lose their fear of people, altering their behavior, and potentially creating dangerous human/deer interactions.

Update: Debbie Masterson said Friday evening her father’s surgery went well and he was resting comfortably.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.